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Sporting Witness


The inside and personal story of the key moments from sporting history

The inside and personal story of the key moments from sporting history


United Kingdom




The inside and personal story of the key moments from sporting history




The first Tokyo Olympics

The first Olympic Games in Japan were held in 1964, less than 20 years after the country lost the Second World War. The bombed-out centre of Tokyo had been virtually rebuilt following the Allied Occupation, and the Japanese took the opportunity to showcase new technology such as the Bullet Train and colour TV broadcasts. Ashley Byrne talks to wrestling gold medallist, Yojiro Uetake, about his memories of the games. The programme is a Made In Manchester Production. PHOTO: Japanese student...


Stacy Dragila - Queen of the Women's Pole Vault

At the 2000 Sydney games, women were able to compete in the Pole Vault at the Olympics for the first time. It followed the emergence of a generation of vaulters led by America’s Stacy Dragila, who proved that women could master an event traditionally regarded as too physically demanding and too technically difficult for them. Stacy Dragila went on to win the first women’s Olympic gold medal in her discipline. She talks to Simon Watts. PHOTO: Stacy Dragila competing in 1999 (Getty Images)


Bjorn Borg

In the late 1970s and early 80s, Sweden’s Bjorn Borg was the biggest star in world tennis and arguably the sport’s first sex symbol. Always besieged by young female fans, Borg won five Wimbledon championships in a row and enjoyed a famous rivalry with John McEnroe, which culminated in an epic tie-break in the 1980 final. But Bjorn Borg would then shock the world of sport by retiring in 1983 at the age of just 26. Simon Watts brings together Borg’s Wimbledon memories, as recorded in the BBC...


France’s Euro 2000 triumph

In July 2000, France became only the second team to hold the World Cup and European Championship titles at the same time. Already the reigning World Champions, a French side featuring all-time greats such as Zinedine Zidane and Didier Deschamps struggled to break down their Italian opponents. But everything changed in the final moments of a dramatic final, as midfielder Robert Pires tells Steve Hankey. The programme is a Whistledown Production.


The Panenka penalty

In June 1976, Czechoslovakia won the men’s European football championship with probably the most famous penalty kick in history. During a penalty shootout against West Germany, midfielder Antonín Panenka waited for the goalkeeper to dive and then casually chipped the ball down the middle of the goal. The technique is now known as a “Panenka” and has been copied by everyone from Zinedine Zidane to Leo Messi. Antonín Panenka talks to Ian Williams.


Football's Coming Home

In June 1996, an England team led by Paul Gascoigne went on an impressive run as hosts of the European championships – with the terrace anthem “Football’s Coming Home” becoming the soundtrack for a summer of national euphoria. But the tournament would end in English tears when future national manager Gareth Southgate missed the decisive penalty in an agonising semi-final shoot-out against Germany. Alex Capstick talks to England midfielder Darren Anderton about how the country embraced a team...


The Van Basten wonder goal

In June 1988, Holland finally won a major international football tournament when they defeated the Soviet Union in the final of the 1988 European Championship. The Dutch sealed victory with an almost-impossible volley by striker Marco Van Basten. Matthew Kenyon talks to Arnold Muhren, the veteran midfielder who set up one of the greatest goals in football history. PHOTO:


Denmark's shock Euros win

In June 1992, Denmark’s top footballers were relaxing on the beach when they received an urgent call to take part in the Euro 92 tournament. The Danes had failed to qualify for the championship, but were now needed as replacements for Yugoslavia, a country that no longer existed because it had descended into civil war. In a surprise to everyone, including themselves, Denmark then went on to win the tournament, defeating Holland and West Germany on the way. Will Yates talks to midfielder John...


Indonesia's badminton heroine

In 1992, badminton legend Susi Susanti won the first ever Olympic Gold medal for Indonesia. It was the first time that badminton had been included as an Olympic sport in the games, giving them a special significance for Susi's badminton-obsessed home country. For Susi, it was also a moment when she could show her national pride as an Indonesian who hailed from the nation's ethnic Chinese minority. She talks to Jill Achineku. The programme is a Whistledown Production. PHOTO: Susi Susanti in...


Anthony Robles

In March 2011, Anthony Robles won a national college wrestling title in the United States despite being born with only one leg. Relying on upper-body strength and a unique sense of balance, Robles went undefeated throughout the entire season and was voted the outstanding wrestler of the NCAA finals. He also holds the world record for the most pull-ups in one minute. Anthony Robles talks to Ian Williams. PHOTO: Anthony Robles in action at the 2011 finals (Getty Images)


The Scottish club that toppled Real Madrid

In the early 1980s, Aberdeen went from Scottish footballing obscurity to the very top of the European game, beating mighty Real Madrid to win the 1983 European Cup Winners' Cup. The sporting fairy-tale made the reputation of Sir Alex Ferguson, before he went on to manage Manchester United. Alex Capstick spoke to former Aberdeen assistant manager Archie Knox and former midfielder Neale Cooper. Neale Cooper died in 2018. PHOTO: Alex Ferguson and Archie Knox with the European Cup Winner's Cup...


The athlete who changed the rules on sex tests

In the 1980s, the Spanish hurdler Maria-Jose Patiño was forced to quit athletics after a sex test revealed she had male chromosomes due to a rare genetic condition called Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. Often facing hostile press coverage, Patiño fought a two-year battle to change the international rules – successfully proving that her chromosome pattern did not improve her athletic performance and that her body was the same as any other woman’s. Patiño was allowed to compete again in...


Kuwait at the football World Cup

In 1982, Kuwait made their first and only appearance at the football World Cup, with their amateur side putting up respectable performances against France and England. But press attention focused on the Kuwaitis’ team mascot – a camel called Haydoo, who became such a fan favourite that he even inspired a hit song. Sumaya Bakhsh talks to Kuwait captain, Saad al-Houty, about how Haydoo came to represent national pride for a team that had been dismissed by the foreign media as a bunch of...


Ghana's runaway sprinters

In 1990, two of Ghana’s most talented sprinters, Gus Nketia and Laud Codjoe, escaped from their national team’s accommodation at the Commonwealth Games in Auckland. The pair had made friends in New Zealand and wanted to flee from a country with an increasingly repressive government. They were helped by an extended Maori family, who hid them in the New Zealand backcountry and helped them apply for citizenship. Gus Nketia later became the New Zealand record-holder at 100 metres. Tom...


Fighting for women's boxing

In the 1980s, the American boxer, Gail Grandchamp, launched a long campaign for the right to take part in amateur competitions in the USA. Representing herself and raising money through part-time jobs, Gail was eventually successful in 1992 - blazing a trail for women boxers the world over. She spoke to Rebecca Kesby in 2016. PHOTO: Gail Grandchamp squaring up (The Berkshire Eagle)


When Col Gaddafi's son played football in Italy's Serie A

In 2003, Italian top-flight side Perugia made a new and unusual signing: Al-Saadi Gaddafi, the son of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. It was seen as a publicity stunt by headline-hungry Perugia owner Luciano Gaucci, with Gaddafi making just one Serie A appearance, as a substitute in a win against Juventus in 2004. But Gaddafi made a big impression off the field and was renowned for his playboy lifestyle and outrageous spending habits. Former Perugia teammates Jay Bothroyd and Zeljko Kalac...


Zimbabwe's Paralympic pioneer

At the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney, Zimbabwean sprinter Elliot Mujaji won his country’s first ever Paralympic gold medal when he sprinted to victory in the 100 metres. Mujaji had been a promising runner as a teenager, but suffered severe burns and the amputation of his right arm while working in a part-time job as an electrician. Mujaji then faced a tough battle to get sponsorship in a country where there was virtually no support for Paralympic athletes. He talks to Ashley Byrne. The...


The Gay Games

In 1982, the first ever Gay Games were held in San Francisco. Attracting a large crowd and featuring more than 1000 athletes from more than 100 countries, the event was organised by a group of LGBT activists, including former Olympians, to raise awareness about homophobia in sport. The Gay Games are now held every four years at venues around the world. Ashley Byrne speaks to organiser Sara Waddell Lewinstein and athlete Rick Tomin. This programme was first broadcast in 2010. PHOTO: An...


The first woman to play in the NHL

French Canadian Manon Rhéaume became the first, and only, woman to play in the National Hockey League. In 1992 she was signed by the Tampa Bay Lightning as a goaltender after a successful performance in training camp. Manon tells Rebecca Kesby how she started playing ice hockey at the age of 5 with her brothers, and why she loves playing in goal with pucks flying at her at well over 100km an hour. Manon Rhéaume played in the men professional league for 5 years and represented Canada in the...


Nova Peris - Australia's first aboriginal Olympic champion

In 1996, Nova Peris became the first aboriginal Australian to win an Olympic gold medal when the “Hockeyroos” women’s hockey team took victory at the Atlanta games. Peris’s mother was one of Australia’s so-called Stolen Generation – the aboriginal children separated from their families by the state – and Peris experienced racial abuse herself during her sporting career. After triumphing in hockey, she switched to athletics and took another gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in the 200...